40 for 40: Top Spots to See on the Chicago River

As a final reflection on Friends’ 40th anniversary we compiled one more Top 40 list–Top Spots on the Chicago River–to help you discover more of the amazing places along the system where you can see wildlife, ride your bike, enjoy world famous architecture, watch a barge unload, fish, paddle or just enjoy the view.

From the Middlefork Savanna in Lake County to Bubbly Creek on Chicago’s near south side or the rolling hills in Palos and the SEPA station near the Acme Bend, the river is an impressive and improving resource for people and wildlife that has come to life over the last 40 years.

“It is amazing to consider how different it was,” said Margaret Frisbie, Friends’ executive director. “When Friends was founded in 1979, most people would have been hard-pressed to name any 'must-see' places, such was the deteriorated and neglected shape of the river. Yet even then the river was full of magical places full of surprises and today there are so many, many more because of Friends’ hard work and that of our many members, funders, partners, forward-thinking, environment-minded officials, and thousands and thousands of volunteers." 

In the coming months we invite you to explore the river and report back what you find. Got some other nominees for top spots? Email us at river@chicagoriver.org!

And if you missed our other Top 40s, check them out here: 40 Key Moments in Friends' History, 40 People Who Made a Difference, and 40 Fantastic Fauna.

In the meantime thank you for being on the journey with us – the next 40 promise to be better than before – and enjoy the 40 views below (generally from north to south)! All photos by Friends of the Chicago River unless otherwise noted.

1. Evanston Ecology Center

2. Skokie Lagoon

3. Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park: (North Shore Conventions & Visitors Bureau)

4. Middlefork Savannah Forest Preserve (Lake County Forest Preserves)

5. Prairie Wolf Forest Preserve (Lake County Forest Preserves)

6. Chipilly Woods

7. Watersmeet Woods (Forest Preserves of Cook County)

8. Blue Star Woods

9. Prairie Wolf Slough

10. Glenview Woods

11. Harms Woods

12. Linne Woods

13. Techny Basin

14. Bunker Hill in Clayton F. Smith Preserves

15. LaBagh Woods

16. River Park Confluence (Block Club Chicago)

17. Horner Park

18. Harry Weese River Cottages (John K. Zacherle/Creative Commons)

19. Wells St. CTA Bridge (joenevill/Creative Commons)

20. The Jetty on the Chicago Riverwalk

21. McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum

22. Southbank Riverwalk

23. Ping Tom Park (Chicago Water Taxi)

24. Eleanor Street Boathouse. (Studio Gang)

25. Bridgeport Art Center

26.Canal Origins Park (Chicago Park District)

27. Richard J. Daley Park (Chicago Park District)

28. Hegewisch Marsh Park (Chicago Park District)

29. Lockport Prairie Nature Preserve (Will County Forest Preserve)

30. Summit Boat Launch (Port of Summit Boat Launch Facebook)

31. Cal-Sag Trail (Illinois Department of Tourism)

32. Mill Creek

33. Whistler Woods Major Taylor Trail

34. McClaughrey Spring Springs Woods (Forest Preserves of Cook County)

35. Cal-Sag Quarries

36. Blue Island SEPA (Metropolitan Water Reclamation District)

37. Wampum Lake

38. Kickapoo Woods

39. Beaubien Woods

40. Cooper's Hawk Grove bat nursery